Office of Admissions
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January 23, 2023
We believe that there is no limit to what you can accomplish with an innovative outlook and a curious spirit. But you don't have to just take our word for it.
On this podcast, we look for every opportunity to let real college students do the talking — which is why we're inviting students from all three of Bucknell's colleges to tell you about their experiences conducting research as undergrads.
In this follow-up to our last episode on undergraduate research, we're asking current students about how they got involved in research, what it's like working side by side with faculty, why they recommend research to incoming undergrads and more.
Our guests are biology major, Claire Marino '23; critical Black studies and environmental studies double-major Reece Pauling '24; and mechanical engineering major Tobi Odusote '25.
If you have a question, comment or idea for a future episode, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
[00:00:41] BT: Here on College Admissions Insider, we're big believers that there is no limit to what you can accomplish with an innovative outlook and a curious spirit.
[00:00:49] BHA: But you don't have to just take our word for it. On this podcast, we look for every opportunity to let real college students do the talking.
[00:00:56] BT: Which is why we're inviting students from all three of Bucknell's colleges to tell you about their experiences conducting research as undergrads. I'm Brooke Thames from Bucknell University.
[00:01:06] BHA: And I'm Becca Haupt Aldredge, also from Bucknell. In this follow-up to our last episode on undergraduate research, we're asking current students about how they got involved in research, what it's like working side by side with faculty, why they recommend research to incoming undergrads and more.
[00:01:21] BT: Our talented and accomplished guests include biology major, Claire Marino, Class of 2023; Critical Black Studies and environmental studies, double-major Reece Pauling, Class of 2024; and mechanical engineering major Tobi Odusote, Class of 2025. Welcome to the podcast.
[00:01:39] CM: Thank you for having us.
[00:01:40] TO: Thank you for having me.
[00:01:42] BHA: So let's dive in by hearing a little bit more about your research projects and how they tie into your studies at Bucknell. Claire, let's start with you.
[00:01:50] CM: Okay, thank you. My name is Claire Marino. I'm a senior biology major and literary studies minor. This is my third year doing research at Bucknell. I do botanical research with Dr. Chris Martine in his lab in the biology department, along with Dr. Tanisha Williams and Dr. Melody Sain as my mentors. I am part of two projects in the lab. The first is a new specie description of an Australian bush tomato from Kakadu National Park, for which I'm currently working on a manuscript. The second is the basis of my honor's thesis, which is taking a population genomics approach to understanding the evolutionary history of the Solanum dioicum, which is another group of Australian bush tomatoes.
[00:02:26] TO: My name is Tobi Odusote, and I am mechanical engineering major. This summer, I worked with two professors. The names were Professor Constance Ziemian, and a Professor Indranil Brahma. We worked mainly on building and testing machine learning and deep learning models.
RP: Hi, everyone. My name is Reece Pauling. I'm a critical black studies and environmental studies double major. This summer, I was given an opportunity to do undergraduate research in the arts, humanities and social sciences department under a place studies program and fun. I was focusing on America's penal system, recidivism, race, and rehabilitation and connecting that to horticultural therapy.
[00:02:42] BT: That is a really great, and diverse, and interesting array of research projects and majors that you guys represent. I'm interested to know more about how each of you got involved in your various projects, starting with your desire to do research in the first place. Was research something you knew you want it to do coming into college?
[00:03:02] CM: I definitely knew that I wanted to do research as an undergraduate student. That was one of the primary reasons that I actually chose to attend Bucknell. It's something that the university really prides itself on. I definitely heard a lot about it as I was in the process of applying to different schools, they advertised it really well. The idea that you could start research as soon as I wanted to was really appealing. So was Bucknell nature as a primarily undergraduate institution, which allows undergrad students to become really involved in research.
[00:03:27] TO: Research is definitely something I want to do as undergraduate student, because the thought of getting this much experience right off the bat is obviously very interesting to go down. I definitely spent some two weeks or so going through professors' pages just looking at what they do and what they've done in the past because I wanted to find something that was interesting. I found something that was interesting. I reached out to the professor and he was very, very excited to drag me along in his research.
RP: Yeah, for me it’s literally the total opposite. I had no clue that I was going to do research here at Bucknell. The research thing for this summer just has been an entire journey for me, especially. I didn't know the topic that I was going to do, which is on mass incarceration. But through that journey, I was able to have a research project, especially with my faculty mentor, who's Dr. Faull. I was able to dive deeper into those interests as she was my main academic support.
[00:04:16] BHA: Tobi, as somebody who knows that they wanted to do research as part of your college education before you even got to Bucknell, what kinds of qualities or resources were you looking for in schools that you applied to? What stuck out to you, as you did your college search, as a place that you might want to be able to do research at?
[00:04:35] TO: I guess the main problem for an undergraduate student interested in research is definitely availability of opportunities. First of all, I definitely looked for a school that advertised undergraduate research as one of the main points.
Then the next thing was to find the students—to-faculty ratio. That was actually one of the major things that stood out to me, because if with a such a low students-faculty ratio of 9:1, it's like you almost are guaranteed to have a relationship with at least one professor on campus. It's also in addition that the school was really small, you know that you're going to have more opportunities to meet professors that actually do things that you'd like.
Other characteristics....it doesn't really play a big role, but it was useful to know that the postgraduate program was really small. I guess “small” is the word I should use compared to the undergraduate program. You know you're definitely going to get more opportunities to do research.
[00:05:59] BT: Yeah, that's a great note about the relationship between the size of an institution and the freedom you'll have to actually be able to access those opportunities. So speaking of opportunities, Claire, you knew you wanted research to be a part of your college experience, but your interests have developed differently than you thought they might? How did you end up discovering the various opportunities open to you once you got to campus?
[00:06:21] CM: Yeah. I initially enrolled at Bucknell as a neuroscience major, so still within the field of biology, but very, very different from working with plants. I discovered my interest in botany through taking an introductory biology class called Plants, People in the Environment that was taught by my current research mentor, Dr. Martine, the spring of my freshman year. While taking that course, I realized that I actually might be more interested in researching plants than in researching the brain. I decided to ask Dr. Martine in office hours about potential career paths in botany, and his research interests, and how he got to where he was. We had a really great conversation. At the end of that conversation, he said, “If you want, I have an open position in my lab next year on a project that I need a student for.” After that course finished, the following semester, I joined the lab, and I switch my major to biology, so that I could continue taking more plant and ecology related classes to complement my research.
I really enjoyed sharing this story, because I was totally the high school student who insisted I was not going to change my major once I got to college, but I did. Even if you don't change directions academically, that's why I think it's important to take classes outside of your major. You can discover a lot of new things about yourself, your interests and your future goals in places you don't initially suspect.
[00:07:36] BHA: Claire, I'm so glad that you brought that up. Brooke and I just actually finished two different episodes where we talk a lot about student paths and trajectories from the moment that they begin thinking about what they might want to study in college, and then what they actually study once they get here, and all the paths that they can take at something like a liberal arts university. So I'm glad that you were open to opportunities and open to change, even though it might not have felt like that when you were in high school.
Then switching gears a little bit. Reece, I know your path was slightly different in that you didn't necessarily know that you wanted to be involved with research as part of your studies in the humanities. How did you get involved? Were you also kind of, like Claire, open to possibilities and how did that benefit you?
[00:08:17] RP: Yes, I was very like open-minded, especially coming in as a freshman. I'm a junior now. Last semester — last year, my sophomore year — I just had like ideas that I enjoyed from the classes that I was taking. I had this one class entitled Race, Violence and Incarceration. I really, really enjoyed the topics that followed inside of that class. I know I had at one topic, and last minute, about the end of like the spring semester, I realized, “Okay, there are opportunities for research. But I don't know if I didn't meet the deadline or if I can still meet the deadline.” So it really came down to, “Do I want to do it? Am I passionate enough to pull through and try to find the resources I need? Also, who can I talk to who can align with my passions for it?” So it really came down to, did I want to do it, and also what professor I can talk to? That professor ended up being my research mentor, Dr. Faull.
[00:09:25] BT: Although you all are studying vastly different subjects, a thread that I'm picking up on is the influence and importance of faculty in each of your journeys with research. A student will almost always be working with faculty with some sort of expertise or vested interest in the student's project. Those faculty members not only influential in the development of the research, but also in the growth of the student. Can each of you tell us a little bit more about your experiences working with professors and how they've mentored you?
[00:09:53] CM: Absolutely. As I mentioned before, I first met Dr. Martine through one of my elective courses as a freshman. Not only has he helped me figure out my research interests and mentored me as I work on different projects, but he has also been a great mentor in terms of helping me figure out my plans for post-graduation. So have Dr. Williams and Dr. Sain. I've really been able to learn a lot about the graduate school application process from them, and what kinds of qualities I should search for in a lab or in a principal investigator in labs that I want to work in in the future. Through them, I have also learned a lot about a ton of different research methods, either in the field or at the lab bench. This is really helping me to become a well-rounded student and researcher.
[00:10:28] TO: Professor Ziemian was one of my professors I worked with this summer, and she was my advisor, actually. That's how I met her. I was always going to her office, and I was just telling her how my day went and how school went. We definitely developed a really good relationship. I just happened to pass a comment of I want to do some research. She was like, "Okay. You should probably email the professors you're interested in." Then I reached out to a professor, and I told her who I emailed, and she also reached out to him. Both professors kind of collaborated and put me through what I was supposed to do. I'm working with them this summer, it's very interesting.
[00:11:13] RP: So my faculty mentor was Dr. Katherine Faull, she's the Presidential Professor of German and Comparative Humanities and the Director for Community Engaged Learning and Research. Prior to my research, I had a class with her that was a dinner seminar class that was based on humanities and civic engagement. During research and after research, it's just totally different. I think when we're here, we look at our professors as, "Okay, I'm coming to your class. I'm sitting here. I might have questions. I might go to your office hours. And then I'm going to come back into my room." I think having her as my mentor over the summer, I saw a humanistic side of what professors can be.
They're real people. They have their own things that they're part of on top of the support that they really do give, especially when you're on campus, and all of your friends or all of your family isn't here with you. So that support was really like influential in keeping me to continue to do my research over the summertime.
[00:12:10] BHA: In our last episode, Brooke and I had a conversation with Bucknell's director of undergraduate fellowship and research, Margaret Marr. We talked about how smaller, undergraduate-focused universities like Bucknell might be able to offer research opportunities to students earlier on in their college careers. Tobi, as a sophomore, do you feel like jumping into research early has had an advantage for you?
[00:12:34] TO: Definitely. Although I'm going to say, starting research like right from the bat was…it's kind of scary at first. But when you do it, you kind of develop some skills that you didn't know you actually need to develop in undergrad. It sort of shows you what career you're trying to pursue. Like I'm a mechanical engineer, and there's so many things you can go into. Currently, because I'm doing machine learning, I know that's definitely something I want to do in the future. Having a clear idea of where you're going, and what it is like working in that kind of field, is definitely an advantage I have.
[00:13:07] BT: In a lot of cases, these research projects aren't necessarily just one and done. We know many of our students have the chance to work on the same research project year after year. That might be the case with some of you as well. Claire, what would you say are the benefits of developing a project over three or four years.
[00:13:24] CM: I have really enjoyed being a part of the same lab for several years now. This is my third year in the Martine lab. I feel like it has afforded me the opportunity to really be able to dive deeper into the field of botany, and explore areas and methods within the field way more in depth than I would be able to if I were jumping around to different labs. My first project was a new species description that took a morphological approach — so looking at like physical characteristics that you can measure. Now, I'm doing DNA extractions at the lab bench with micropipettes and centrifuges for my honor's thesis.
I would also describe the “Martine machine” — that’s what the lab is called — as like a lab family. By staying in the lab for a longer period of time, you really get to know the other students, and it's a wonderful, really supportive environment. I've been friends with other people in the lab for a pretty long time now. I also like that since I have relatively long-term experience in the lab, from a student perspective, I'm able to give advice to new members of the team when they ask.
[00:14:25] BHA: While starting research early can definitely give students an edge. It's never too late to get involved in research either. At least not at schools like Bucknell. Reece, what advice would you give to high schoolers who might need some time to figure out what they want to do?
[00:14:38] RP: Yeah, I am definitely a strong believer in the fact that it is never too late to do research. There is never like a set time or a set place to do research because, at Bucknell, you can do research on campus. You can do research that's not on campus, but Bucknell is connecting you to those other partners. My advice honestly would keep an open mind, ask questions, and build relationships with other students and especially — heavy emphasis [on] especially — with your professors. You may never know what the future holds for you. So even if you're planning for it or not, you should always create those relationships while you're on campus because you will be here for four years.
[00:15:16] BT: I love every piece of that advice, especially the fact that you noted that research isn't confined to the classroom or the lab. There are real-world components of many, if not most projects. Can each of you tell us a little bit more about how your work has gone beyond campus?
[00:15:32] CM: I'd absolutely love to talk a little bit about that. I have been incredibly fortunate to go even beyond the state of Pennsylvania for some of my research. One of those ways is that I have been able to present progress on my new species description project at numerous conferences. Due to COVID-19, most of those have been virtual. But this past summer, I went with some of the other members of the Martine lab to the Botany 2022 Conference in Anchorage, Alaska, which was a really amazing experience. It gave me an opportunity to see many other students and professors talk about their work. I learned a lot about different projects within botany that I hadn't encountered before, saw a lot of new ideas. I was also able to work on my own communication and presentation skills, which is really important, I think, as a student who wants to pursue a career in research.
Then, I was also able to travel to western Australia, this past summer with Dr. Martine and Dr. Williams in June for my honor's thesis project. This experience taught me a lot about the importance and process of conducting fieldwork. I learned that I definitely want fieldwork to be a part of future research projects that I work on.
[00:16:40] TO: Although my research doesn't necessarily take me outside of campus, because I do machine learning, which just involves me looking at computers, and data, and everything —and coding too. I was fortunate to go out of campus to present a symposium and that was really awesome to experience. It was a really good experience.
[00:17:25] RP: My work is like very community-based or civic-engaged. My objective with my research was to research state punitive measures in the prison industrial complex, and understand how green initiatives like horticulture therapy can be a program for rehabilitation in the reduction of recidivism rates. With this, I partnered with the State Correctional Institute of Coal Township, which is in Northumberland County — we're in Union County, so that's about 45 [minutes] to an hour away — as well as community members from the Shamokin area to implement a garden-producing cut flowers that will be donated to neighboring senior living areas and nursing homes within the two counties, so Northumberland and Union County.
Most of my interactions, aside from being on my computer finding resources and actually writing a research paper. On the other flip side of that, it was actually meeting with community partners. It was having lunch with partners, which was very…I like that aspect a lot. But having lunch with partners, and eating, and breaking bread with them. And also talking about our future plans, interacting with incarcerated individuals within the Northumberland County State Correctional Institute, and then asking questions and learning from different perspectives to help with my research.
I also had to like learn how to put flower arrangements together. Down the street from Bucknell University, like our campus itself is actually a flower shop — which is Stein's Flower Shop —which also helped me arrange. So my research is heavily dependent on using the community, and asking them for their help; “How is this the right way to go around with the research that I am doing?”
[00:19:05] BT: A lot of you have talked about the people that you work with in your research, whether that's professors, or other students, or community partners, like Reece was just describing. Do you find that the research landscape is more collaborative than competitive?
[00:19:18] CM: I would definitely agree that it's very collaborative. Within the Martine lab, all the students in the lab kind of have their own projects that they're working on. Sometimes in the past, there have been students working on the same project. But usually, everyone kind of has their own little niche thing that they're working on. But everybody's more than happy to help out each other, say, if it's somebody's turn to water the greenhouse, but they have extra credit thing going on that day. And you're like, “Hey, can anybody do this for me?" Everybody's always really willing to help each other out, whether it's with watering, or with DNA extractions, or anything like that. So I would say that it's very collaborative.
[00:19:58] TO: Yeah, I'd agree with her. It is very collaborative because, even if you're working with professors or students like yourself, everyone definitely wants to split up the work. “So you do this section. If you need help, come meet me. If I need help, I'll come and meet you.” Everyone's always trying to help everyone because, at the end of the day, we are working toward a common goal, and it's always better to work with people to get to that goal.
[00:20:20] RP: Yeah. I will agree with Tobi and Claire because, even though I didn't have opportunity to work with a group of students — my research was independent, [and] the only person I was like talking about my research with was either the community partners or my faculty mentor — I still think that was very collaborative. Aside from the community-based research, I was still able to talk to my faculty mentor. Also, it just wasn't a competitive nature in the way that, "I have to do this because this has to be better than whoever's doing research over there, or whoever's doing research in the engineering department." It was never on that level.
But if you were to think of competitiveness, I would say competitiveness within myself. I want to do a good job with the research that I'm doing, so I want to put my best foot forward. But competitiveness with other students on campus, I've never felt that in the summer time. It was more so independence, ask for help if you need it and try to put your best foot forward with the work that you're doing.
[00:21:21] BHA: As I've been listening to each of you kind of share your research stories and trajectories, it is so incredible to see that you've been able to have such robust experiences at the undergraduate level. What I really hope is that real students, and maybe their families who are listening, will begin to feel excited about exploring research opportunities in college, and maybe even grow in their confidence that they too can have these types of experiences. As we close, I'd love to leave with each of you sharing how research has helped you learn, develop and grow. What is one thing you want our listeners to really take away from this episode?
[00:21:57] CM: Doing research on campus has definitely allowed me to explore my academic interests on a deeper level. I also feel that it has truly rounded out my experience as a Bucknell undergraduate. Not only does doing research teach you a lot about yourself and what you love, but the problem solving, and creative, and critical thinking skills that I've gained from working on research projects have really helped prepared me for success. And it can help prepare any student for success in any direction they choose to go in. I am definitely not leaving Bucknell as the same student I walked onto campus as and I know that I've changed for the better as a result of doing research. I hope that every other student that comes here after me also has that opportunity.
[00:22:38] TO: Research definitely, definitely gives you a different perspective. It shows you what you do like and what you thought you liked, which is very important. Because the research I did in first summer was not the most amazing thing I would like to do with my life. It was a good experience, but it definitely showed me that I didn't want to do chemistry in the future.
But it definitely taught me a lot of skills, like communication skills. I wasn't really good in communicating with people about what I was doing. Then doing that over and over again definitely helps you build that skill. It also helps me in discovering things like, “What is the problem I'm doing and how do I move forward solving that problem?” So basically, critical thinking skills. Also, it definitely gives you other skills that you didn't know you needed for life after college. So anyone that wants to do research, it may seem scary at first, but it definitely gives you more of an advantage if you go through that process.
[00:23:31] RP: Yeah, research for me definitely put in perspective what I may want to pursue after undergrad. It made me realize my weaknesses and my strengths, like what I didn't like and what I do like. Before this process, I had a very, very small vision when it came to career paths and like graduate school. But now as a junior going into my spring semester, I'm really clear on what I'm interested in, and where I want to see myself. Now, that is allowing me to prepare myself and be ready for my next steps after Bucknell. Research really made me feel more confident, made me have a clearer vision and also be more passionate about what I wanted to do.
[00:24:11] BT: I love that research for each of you has really helped you more clearly define your interests, your passions and how you want to take all of these skills that you've learned at Bucknell, and use them to transform the world and the future. “Building beauty” as Margaret Marr in our last episode described it. Thanks again to all of you for joining us here.
[00:24:32] RP: Thank you so much for having me
[00:24:33] CM: Thank you so much for having us.
[00:24:34] TO: Thank you for having us.
[00:24:36] BHA: We also want to thank everyone out there listening. If you're a fan of the podcast, please take a moment to rate, subscribe and share this episode with the students in your life.
[00:24:45] BT: We'll be back with another episode in just a few weeks. In the meantime, send your questions, comments and episode ideas to email@example.com. We read every note you send.
[00:24:56] BHA: Finally, you're invited to follow Bucknell on your favorite social media apps. Just look for @BucknellU on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok. You can also follow our student-run Instagram account to meet students just like the ones you met in today's episode, which is @iamraybucknell.
[00:25:16] BT: Until next time, keep on reaching for your dreams and your dream school.
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